The Coyote women’s basketball team took care of business in their first game in the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center, defeating the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 80-74.
“Certainly an exciting opportunity to open up at home, the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center, what a great atmosphere to play a game in,” said first-year Coyote head coach Dawn Plitzuweit.
The new arena was a point of pride for the entire team. For senior center Abigail Fogg, the SCSC is a dream come to life.
“It was totally awesome. I even think before the game I remember coming out of the tunnel when it was under construction and we all had goosebumps looking at it and I think, ‘This is ours, this is going to be it,'” Fogg said. “So then to actually come out and see that in real life was just awesome.”
Despite the fanfare surrounding the new arena and the new look team, the distractions of the day did little to faze the Coyotes.
“I don’t think it was a distraction at all, it’s just something we’ve been working for since we came here in June really together when we all got together for the first time,” said sophomore guard Jaycee Bradley. “Little by little, getting to move into the locker room in July and then starting to work out in the weight room, it’s been a long time coming we’re really excited for today and I don’t think it was a distraction I think it was all positive today.”
After falling behind in the first quarter and entering the second quarter down 19-24, the Coyotes found their rhythm and took a 38-31 lead into halftime. USD had trouble stopping the Lumberjacks from behind the arc in the first half. Stephen F. Austin shot a blistering 70-percent from deep.
“We had to find a way to slow them down and for us we’ve got to look at ways that we can get ball pressure and still guard one-on-one in our man defense,” Plitzuweit said. “We just haven’t gotten to that point obviously. They felt very, very comfortable looking at the rim, seeing good opportunities and just shot the ball on us.”
In the third quarter, USD continued their attack, as they took a 61-47 lead into the final quarter of play. In the fourth quarter Stephen F. Austin surged, as they outscored the Coyotes 27-19. Despite a late push, the comeback wouldn’t be enough, as the Coyotes went on to win 80-74.
Sophomore guard Allison Arens lead the Coyotes on offense. She scored 21 points and dished out six assists. Abigail Fogg also came up big for USD on offense, scoring 18 points on 8-10 shooting.
Early this season Arens has been big for the Coyotes on offense. She scored 28 in the team’s exhibition win over Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and kept it rolling against the Lumberjacks. Despite her strong recent performances, Arens said she knows the high scoring every time out is no guarantee.
“It’s only been two games so who knows what the next games are going to hold. I mean lucky for us these teams didn’t have any scouting reports so they didn’t know what to expect on us, they haven’t seen us play so next game could be totally different,” Arens said. “Honestly, I think we all have a big role in what’s going to happen here and, yeah, maybe I have scored the last two games, but that’s not promising for the next ones even. It’s anybody’s chance to score.”
After last year’s Coyote team lucked out with having go-to offensive players in Nicole Seekamp, Tia Hemiller and Kelly Stewart, this year’s team is still figuring out exactly who will be taking the shots.
“We’re a really young team right now and it is a completely different team from last year, but even game-to-game I think you saw today our personnel on the court can be a lot different from game-to-game,” Bradley said. “Learning the motion offense, learning to play with each other, learning each others strengths and stuff like that and just more games and reps in practice will help us improve in that area.”
This plays into the Coyotes’ new motion offense and how Plitzuweit wants her team to run this season.
“I thought Abby played well, but this is what I told our kids after the game is that the way we want to play is really and equal opportunity offensive style,” Plitzuweit said. “One game Abby might have six, the next game she may have 18, next game Maddy McKeever may be the kid, next game maybe Jaycee’s (Bradley) opportunity or Bridget’s opportunity. I thought the kids that came in the game the first half, Megan Bonar, Kaitlyn Severyn and Kate Liveringhouse really gave us a boost and I thought that was very necessary.”
With the win, the Coyotes improve to 1-0 on the season. They will embark on a four game road trip across the country, visiting Arkansas, Tulsa, UC Riverside and CSU Bakersfield before returning to the SCSC on November 30 to take on Concordia University, St. Paul.
“For us, it’s a matter of learning where our kids are really comfortable and that’s going to take us some time,” Plitzuweit said.